Thursday 6 December 2018

NEU call for a halt to The Village School academy conversion. Butt fails to respond to meeting request.

Press release from Brent National Education Union
An investigation by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) into financial irregularities related to the academy and Multi Academy Trust (MAT) conversion process between Woodfield academy school and The Village school in Brent has still not been published. This means, according to our source at the DfE, that the possible conversion date has been pushed back until February 2019 at the earliest.

This investigation was triggered by reports and whistleblowing from NEU members with regards to overpaid off-payroll consultants who were interfering with governance and HR matters at the Woodfield trust whilst receiving up to £240,000 for ‘services as defined by the school’. The financial due diligence process carried out by governors for any academy conversion, was led by one of these consultants working at the schools.

Since the MAT process was started, consultants have continued to be paid with funds intended for the education of SEND children in the borough. Restructure of the senior leadership teams has increased the funds at the top levels while vacancies remain unfilled and agency staffing increases in the classrooms.

NEU members at the school are seeking a further ballot for strike action, following their 13 days last year, to try to keep their school in the local authority. To this end, they wrote to the Leader of the Council Muhammed Butt on 20th November requesting an urgent meeting. There has been no response. This follows Brent NEU sending him the resolution below* on 6th November. There has been no response. Brent Central Labour Party passed a similar resolution at their meeting of 15th November. There has been no response.

Councillor Jumbo Chan, who has been a vocal supporter of the campaign to stop the academisation said:
 I understand from Brent NEU as well as the NEU membership of teachers and support staff of The Village School that despite nearly a year since a majority of its governing body decided to form a multi-academy trust with Woodfield School, The Village School is in a state of legal limbo.
It was disappointing earlier in the year when the majority of the governing body of The Village School chose to go ahead with academisation despite overwhelming opposition from a coalition of parents, campaigners (including the Brent Labour Parties) and of course, the outstanding, passionate and dedicated teachers and support staff of The Village School. It is worrying now that issues into Woodfield School’s account are being investigated by the ESFA.
I urge the governing body of The Village School to listen to their staff, to rescind their application to become an academy as part of a MAT, and to stay with the Brent local community
Hank Roberts, Brent NEU President said:
The terminally ill academies programme lurches from crisis to crisis and scandal to scandal with ever increasing frequency and severity. The tawdry plan to pilfer the jewel in the crown of Brent’s education service that is The Village school (costing Brent £29 million) by a rag bag of opportunist privateers has been further knocked back. Months after the school was supposed to be handed over and run privately by a group including the Brent Labour Whip Cllr Sandra Kabir the school remains with the Local Authority. We call on Cllr Muhammed Butt to write urgently to the Governors and the Secretary of State for Education as requested by the Brent NEU, Brent Central Labour Party and the staff at the school
*Resolution passed unanimously at Brent NEU General Meeting 6/11/18

Brent NEU note that The Village school is still an LA school and that Brent Labour Party policy is to urge LA schools to remain within the LA family of schools. We further note that the overwhelming majority of staff and the community have called for the school remain in the LA family of schools.

Brent NEU also note that the LP Conference in September 2018 agreed the following. That in government, the Labour Party will bring all schools back under local democratic control including academy and Multi Academy Trusts. Therefore, proposals to wind up MATs and turn over control and management of schools to local democratically controlled structures should be developed urgently.

Brent NEU therefore call on the leader of the council Muhammed Butt to urgently;

    Write to the Chair of Governors and the Governing Board at The Village urging them to withdraw their proposal to become an academy as part of a Multi Academy Trust and remain as an LA school.

    Write to the Secretary of State for Education to urge the Government not to proceed with the proposal due to the difficulties accompanying this proposal to join Woodfield in a MAT.

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